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For Hunter Biden, a dramatic day with his brother’s widow led to charges

Hallie Biden awoke on an October morning in 2018 after Hunter Biden, the brother of her deceased husband, Beau, had spent the night. While he slept, she dropped her two kids off at school and then returned to rummage through the truck he had parked outside, anxious as to what the admitted drug addict might be hiding.

When she found a newly purchased Colt Cobra .38 handgun, she was hit by a wave of anger and fear. She put the gun in a shopping bag and drove a few miles to a high-end grocery store, where she tossed it into a trash can. That set off a chain of events that would trigger a flurry of frantic text messages, launch another dark chapter in a doomed and difficult romance — and lead to Hunter Biden’s federal trial beginning Monday.

When Hallie told Hunter, whose father at the time was contemplating a run for the presidency, how she had disposed of the gun, he erupted. “Are you insane,” he texted furiously, according to documents submitted by prosecutors. “Tell me now. this is no game. And you’re being totally irresponsible and unhinged.”

Eight seconds later, he wrote again: “Tell me now.”

Hallie reacted with disbelief that Hunter Biden — a drug addict who’d just stashed a gun in a truck outside her home — was accusing her of recklessness. “Check yourself into a local rehab hunter, this has all got to stop,” she responded. “Don’t run away again. Please don’t leave.”

She had to go, she added. Police were arriving.

The text messages, submitted by federal prosecutors as part of their case against Hunter Biden for lying on a gun purchase form, reflect the tortured nature of a Biden family drama that unfolded after the death of Joe Biden’s son Beau of cancer in 2015.

Hallie was the grieving widow of Beau, the rising family star many expected to win the presidency himself. She and Hunter, Beau’s surviving brother, had a turbulent romantic relationship at a time when both were struggling and vulnerable; at one point, she wrote to him, “You want me to relapse.”

In public, leading political figures and journalists were weighing Joe Biden’s presidential prospects and the chance that he could rescue the Democratic Party and end Donald Trump’s chaotic tenure. In private, according to text messages and people close to the family, accusations of betrayal and unfaithfulness multiplied as the family struggled to find its way out of a morass of drugs, grief and troubled love affairs.

The rash decisions Hunter and Hallie made that October day have now propelled him into court, enormously complicating a Biden reelection campaign that many Democrats believe will determine the future of American democracy. With prosecutors preparing to question Hallie Biden — and other women from Hunter Biden’s past — and to introduce personal text messages as evidence, the trial could spill deeply personal topics into the glare of the campaign.

Hunter Biden faces charges of lying on an official form when he bought the gun in 2018, falsely saying he was not using illegal drugs when in fact he was in the throes of addiction. Prosecutors have put Hallie, who had firsthand knowledge of both the gun purchase and Hunter’s addiction, on a list of witnesses they are prepared to call.

In other words, the widow of President Biden’s beloved son Beau could be taking the witness stand as part of prosecutors’ effort to convict his surviving son, Hunter.

This account of the dramatic day that led to the federal charges is drawn from interviews, court records, police reports and, in some cases, the participants’ own memoirs. Attorneys for Hunter Biden and Hallie Biden declined to comment. The White House also declined to comment.

People close to Hunter Biden say he has largely stabilized his life in the intervening six years, and they worry about the toll such a trial could take on someone who has struggled with addiction through much of his life. Hunter Biden’s ex-wife, Kathleen, who left the family orbit after Beau died and Hunter started a relationship with Hallie, is also on the witness list. She could not be reached for comment.

Associates say President Biden himself is worried about his son. He has ensured that on Monday he will be in Wilmington, Del., at his home just miles from the federal courthouse where the trial will unfold.

Hallie Olivere grew up in Wilmington and knew the Biden family from an early age. Her mother, Joan, was a childhood friend of Joe Biden, and he once joked about trying to date her in high school (“I was the Catholic kid. She was the Jewish girl,” he said in September 2015. “I still tried. I didn’t get anywhere.”)

Her parents owned a local dry-cleaning business, and she played field hockey at Tatnall School, a private school on the same leafy street where Joe Biden now lives. By the late 1990s, she was dating Beau Biden and often spending time with his brother, Hunter, and Hunter’s new wife, Kathleen.

Beau proposed on Nantucket on Thanksgiving 2001, and the couple married in a small Catholic church on the island a year later, according to public accounts. The two Biden brothers, who as children survived the 1972 car crash that killed their mother and baby sister, now had growing families and successful careers. Hunter was a lawyer and lobbyist in Washington, and Beau would soon be fulfilling the family political legacy, becoming Delaware’s attorney general and setting his sights on the governorship and possibly one day the presidency.

Kathleen and Hallie bonded, sharing an interest in running and facing together the challenges of marrying into a prominent political family. When Kathleen discovered that Hunter was having an affair in 2014 after seeing photos on his iPad, Hallie was one of the few people she confided in, according to Kathleen’s 2022 memoir “If We Break.”

“If you leave him, Kathleen, he’ll find someone else, and then you’ll have to live with that,” she recalled Hallie telling her. Kathleen confronted Hunter, and they began meeting with a therapist even as they were drifting apart.

But any equilibrium within the family was disrupted when Beau Biden, after several years of battling brain cancer, died on May 30, 2015.

As the family mourned, Kathleen grew suspicious of the time Hunter was spending with Hallie, but she felt guilty questioning his desire to support his brother’s family, she later wrote. Ultimately, her daughters found his phone, discovering the affair and telling their mother during a tearful exchange in a therapist’s office.

Several months after Kathleen filed for divorce from Hunter in 2017, news broke in the New York Post that Hunter and Hallie were in a romantic relationship. Hunter issued a statement saying that he and Hallie were “incredibly lucky to have found the love and support we have for each other in such a difficult time.”

Hunter also urged his reluctant father to provide a statement as a way to break the news to the rest of the family, and to the world.

“‘Dad,’ I told him, ‘if people find out, but they think you’re not approving of this, it makes it seem wrong,’” Hunter wrote in his memoir. “’The kids have to know that there’s nothing wrong with this, and the one person who can tell them that is you.’”

Joe Biden released a statement saying that the couple had his and his wife Jill’s “full and complete support.” “We are all lucky that Hunter and Hallie found each other as they were putting their lives together again after such sadness,” it said.

Hunter and Hallie rented a house in Annapolis, Md., trying to start a new life together.

But it was a complicated life. As Hunter and Hallie sought to support each other, they also served as reminders of the person both had loved and lost.

And it got even more complicated when something else was thrown into the mix: a gun.

Late in the afternoon of Oct. 12, 2018, a salesman was standing in the window of StarQuest Shooters & Survival Supply in Wilmington, which sits near ice cream and bicycle stores and across from a ballpark. Hunter Biden walked in, saying he was interested in purchasing a Colt Cobra revolver, according to court documents.

The store owner knew the Biden family lived a few miles away. He also knew that Joe Biden, sponsor of a federal assault weapons ban that passed in 1994, was not considered a gun rights supporter. The owner told federal prosecutors in a recent interview, a transcript of which was filed in court, that he wanted to complete the sale quickly, thinking it would be bad for business if Joe Biden’s son was known to be a customer.

But first, Hunter needed to fill out a federally required form. It asked for his height, weight and birth date. He checked boxes declaring he was not a fugitive, had never been convicted of a felony and had never been committed to a mental institution.

Finally, there was the box that is the subject of the upcoming trial: “Are you an unlawful user of, or addicted to, marijuana or any depressant, stimulant, narcotic drug, or any other controlled substance?” Hunter marked “no.”

The store ran a criminal-background check that came back negative. Hunter provided his passport, but it is unclear whether he also supplied documentation of his address, as required by law. (Three years later, when the gun purchase became the focus of public scrutiny, store workers altered the original form to reflect that they had checked Hunter’s car registration for the address, according to the store owner, a move that defense attorneys may highlight at trial.)

At 6:53 p.m., a receipt shows, he bought the gun and several other items, including ammunition and a speed loader, paying $886.81 in cash.

He then went to a consignment store next door and bought more items. The gun salesman, according to an interview with federal agents, said an employee of the consignment store told him Hunter had purchased a rubber chicken. He “is not sure whether the employee was making a joke,” an FBI interviewer wrote, “or if Biden actually bought a rubber chicken.”

Eleven days later, on the morning of Oct. 23, Hallie Biden took her two children to school, dropping them off at 8 a.m. When she returned home, as Hunter slept inside, she searched his black pickup truck and found the handgun in the center console, according to police records. Around 11:20 a.m., she put it in a black shopping bag and drove her BMW to Janssen’s Market, a local institution frequented by the Bidens that offered baked goods, fresh flowers and high-end groceries.

She threw the handgun into a trash can and entered the store. A review of video footage showed that she bought beef, bread rolls and a bottled drink.

When she returned home, she later said, Hunter’s car was gone, so she called and told him she had found his gun and thrown it into a trash can. He immediately became alarmed, angrily telling her to go retrieve it, text messages show.

Just before noon, according to the video footage, Hallie arrived back at Janssen’s. She checked two trash cans, and when she could not find the gun, she approached the store owner and relayed what had happened.

The police were called and, by 12:56 p.m., opened a gun theft case, with Hunter listed as the victim and Hallie as the suspect, since she had taken the gun from his car and thrown it out.

The officer felt she was evasive when he asked whether it had been used in a crime and whether she also found drugs. “I found her to not be very reliable and she was kind of all over the place,” the officer wrote.

Hallie called Hunter, who also came to the store to talk to police, saying he’d kept the gun in the truck to avoid bringing it in Hallie’s house because of her children, court documents show. He wondered aloud whether store workers might have taken the gun from the trash can, pointing to two Latino men in Janssen’s Market shirts and saying, “Yea, prolly illegal.”

The police officer asked whether Hunter had told anyone about the incident, including his father. “I have never called my dad for anything,” he replied, according to the police report. “I have always handled my own affairs.”

The officer asked whether he was using drugs, floating that as a reason that Hallie was searching his truck.

“Listen, it isn’t like that,” Hunter responded, according to the police report. “I think she believes I was gonna kill myself.”

He told the officer that he was living a nightmare, that he had fallen in love with his brother’s widow, and that he was depressed but in love.

Hours later, Hunter turned on Hallie again for tossing the gun in a public place, especially one across from a public high school, text messages show.

Cursing the FBI, he wrote that the gun had been in a locked car, adding: “What more can I do than come back to you to try again. And you do this???? Who in their right mind would trust you would help me get sober?”

“Do you want me dead,” he added.

“I’m sorry. I just want you safe. That was not safe,” Hallie wrote back. “And it was open unlocked and windows down and the kids search your car.”

The police still had not found the gun, but investigators were chasing leads on an elderly man who often went through garbage bins in the area to collect recyclables. No one knew how to find him — until one day, employees of a local bank called the police and said he was there.

Wilmington Police Lt. Millard Greer arrived and watched the man for nearly an hour as he rummaged through trash receptacles, he wrote in his report. Eventually, Greer approached and struck up a conversation, telling the man that he was aware someone had recently placed something in a trash can that should not have been there.

“Yes, they did,” the man said quickly.

Greer asked him what it was. “A .38 Special,” the man responded.

The man had the gun back at his house, so he and Greer went to retrieve it. A leather pouch held the revolver and an ammunition box, as well as a box containing lip balm and a speed loader. Greer called and texted Hunter to let him know.

“Mr. Biden was firm in his desire that there not be any prosecution for this case,” the officer wrote, meaning Hunter did not want Hallie charged for throwing out his gun. “He stated, ‘The whole thing is just stupid.’”

The next day, Oct. 30, top officials in the attorney general’s office decided that, without Hunter Biden’s cooperation, the stolen gun case should be closed.

And now, six years later, as federal officials pursue an unrelated tax probe, they have charged the president’s son with lying about his drug use when he bought the gun.

A week ago, President Biden visited Hallie Biden’s house for about 15 minutes, a trip that White House officials said was connected not to Hunter’s upcoming trial but to the ninth anniversary of Beau’s death. On Thursday, the Bidens went to church and visited Beau’s grave, with Hunter walking out just before his father. Hallie was not with them.

This post appeared first on The Washington Post

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